Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The cheese man cometh

I was walking along Borough High Street at lunchtime today, on my way to pick up a very reasonably priced and delicious mediterranean salad from Tas, when behind me I heard the clatter of carton on pavement. I am extremely squeamish about the dropping of litter, as was my father – it is genetic – so my senses are always on high alert and have subsequently become five times more sensitive than the average human.

Behind me, and on the other side of some wire fencing, a construction worker was side-footing a milk carton, still a quarter full, into a medium-sized hole in the road.

A medium-sized hole like this. Well, not like this. Actually this:

The milk carton was followed by a yogurt pot, casually jettisoned into the doom.

While I was digusted by this man's approach to waste management, I was impressed by his commitment to calcium consumption. I imagine strong bones must be a boon in that kind of job.

Still, I was unable to remonstrate with the offender. Chiefly, because he was quite hard-looking and I felt a bit scared of him, with his fluorescent gilet and shaved head and outdoor-employment tan. Furthermore, even if I had the courage of my convictions - and one day soon I really plan to – to the extent where a proper confrontation was a real possibility, I would have had to shin over the red wire fences which were higher than my head, and if you know anything about me, you will know that I am not cut out for The Krypton Factor.

Also, I was REALLY hungry. I wanted those dolmas real bad.

But still, while I was eating them, I kept thinking about those dregs of dairy produce, soon to be buried beneath the road. A quarter of a pint of milk. Some smearings of yoghurt. What if that man did the same thing every day for the duration of Borough High Street's roadworks (which, let me tell you, Southwark council, feels like a lifetime)? Ate and drank the same things? More and more cow juice, accumulating in some kind of mucusy landfill.

I'm no expert, but it must, eventually, fuse into some kind of cheese product, coagulating and curding beneath the feet of thousands of city dwellers for days and weeks and months.

And what happens then?

Gradually, gradually, people who are lactose intolerant start experiencing minor symptoms when they pass over the site. Suddenly, sinuses feel bothered. Eczema blooms. Bathrooms are sought with increasing urgency. Soon people are scurrying from the site in all directions, clutching stomachs, scratching skin, rubbing eyes, blowing noses...

Around those areas filled in by the roadworkers, tiny cracks appear. The smell of cheese starts to pervade - at first merely suggesting there may be a pizza restaurant nearby. Then a branch of Neal's Yard Dairy. Then it is simply an overpowering stench, which you can only walk past if you have your sleeve pressed over your nose.

If you spend any length of time in the area, as opposed to just bustling past (perhaps you work in the office opposite and have a window on the street), you might eventually discern those new areas of tarmac rising and falling, rhythmically, almost imperceptibly.

Somebody is breathing underneath. Or something.

Then one day, the cracks begin to burst open. Two thick, terrible yellow arms emerge, lifting up the tarmac above it like one giant black biscuit and hurling it to one side. And an enormous cheese colussus climbs out and pulls itself up to its full height, towering over people and structures.

It starts to stumble through the streets, terrifying all inhabitants, except for the city's mice who are kind of excited. It is hunting down the construction worker who started it all.

He will not drop litter any more.


miss w said...

I don't think I have ever been made to feel more vomitous. Well done.

Alison Cross said...

Don't worry, the hole will remain open for so long that all moisture will evaporate and foxes will eat the rubbish that is left.

And as for the plastic, it doesn't really matter whether it goes to landfill or under the High Street, it will be there for all eternity.

Imagine the Tony Robinson face from several centuries hence as the Time Team try to work out why there's a yoghurt pot and milk carton in the road ('a sacrifice to the ancient 21st century gods')

Ali xxx